Cathy Sherwo9od

Accuro member discovers skin cancer after using SkinVision app

Cathy Sherwood has a 15cm scar on the calf of her leg, a small but permanent reminder of her close encounter with skin cancer. 

The 40-year-old Hawke's Bay woman's health insurance company offered  a mobile app  for skin checks as part of her plan. 

​SkinVision enables people to assess their spots for the risk of skin cancer. Users can take  photos and receive a rating of the risk.

Sherwood was holidaying at Lake Taupo with her family last summer and was sitting on the lakefront when she decided to give the app a try. 

"One of the spots on my leg would stand out and look at me, so I thought why not. I downloaded it right on the beach and checked a few other spots that I had," she said.

She received a high-risk indication for a spot on the back of her calf, as well as two others.

"Just to be safe, I went to the doctor for all three spots I had checked. I was told that I needed to have all three removed and sent for biopsies."

A week later, Sherwood heard back from her GP and was diagnosed with Atypical Melanoma. She was referred to a specialist who had to remove a larger piece to reduce the risk of it returning.

"Luckily it was caught in the very early stages - I got quite a large incision taken out. I guess I noticed the mole after about 12 months - it definitely had a siren on top of it," she laughed. 

"I was training for my first half marathon when I got my diagnosis, with only four weeks until the race. When I went to the specialist, I asked to delay the surgery, but he said melanoma was not something to take lightly and took it out the following week. I was a bit upset to miss the race but better to be safe than sorry. 

"Since my diagnosis, I've been with others who lay out in the sun. I sit there too, but  I'm the one with the big hat on and a towel covering every inch of my body. I just don't want to muck around with the sun anymore."

The Cancer Society warned people not to rely on skin apps to check for signs of skin cancer but Sherwood said it definitely didn't hurt to have the app.

"When I used it to check my skin, it didn't come back and say 'yes you need to get it removed immediately', it came back and said 'not really sure' and if I didn't have it, I wouldn't have got it checked as quickly as I did."

Emma Hay, Member & Partnership Manager, Accuro Health Insurance, said the company's partnership with SkinVision enabled several members to detect melanomas at an early stage, resulting in surgical removal, which has potentially "saved the lives of these members". 

The app has been downloaded more than a million times and identified 40,000 skin cancers globally - 10,850 of in New Zealand and Australia.

Each year, more than 4000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with melanoma, with 80,000 more receiving diagnoses for other forms of preventable skin cancer.

The cost to the health system is estimated at more than $57 million a year.

All Accuro members have free access to the SkinVision app

Find out more about SkinVision and how to download the app.